Google Captures the 'Zeitgeist' of 2007 Apple's iPhone, Webkinz and Hollywood starlets topped Google's most searched-for terms in 2007. The Internet giant's annual list of top queries included ponderous searches about the divine and basic "how-to" questions on kissing and knitting, among other things.
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Google Captures the 'Zeitgeist' of 2007

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Google Captures the 'Zeitgeist' of 2007

Google Captures the 'Zeitgeist' of 2007

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So what are you searching for? Well, chances are, if you use Google, you've probably typed the terms iPhone or Facebook into the search box this year. You may have even searched for answers to age-old questions like, who is God and what is love. In moments of guilty pleasure, maybe you looked for just the right celebrity gossip site. And if you believe the Technorati, this is all a part of the flavor of 2007. We're talking about the Google Zeitgeist, the tracking of searches by subject overtime. The people at Google have released what they call the year-end Zeitgeist. And Marissa Mayer of Google joins me to explain this. Hi there.

Ms. MARISSA MAYER (Vice President, Search Products & User Experience, Google): Hello.

SEABROOK: So what are the most searched for phrases or words for 2007?

Ms. MAYER: The lists of things that are searched for most are things like weather, stocks, music. They don't change a lot. So at the Zeitgeist, what we like to release is the fastest gainers because it does give you a spirit of the time, such as what Zeitgeist means.

SEABROOK: One of the things that's most interesting to me is the newsmakers. And the top Zeitgeist graph you have is for most searched for candidates. It looks to me like the biggest line here is the yellow one and that is Ron Paul, the Republican maverick.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MAYER: That's right. In fact, Ron Paul is the most searched for candidate in 2007. He hasn't been as covered as, say, the Democratic primaries and so are the other candidates. And a lot of times on the search engine, people will search for what they're curious about and what they don't know a lot about already.

SEABROOK: Interesting. What about TV? There's this one huge question: Who is Keppler? And, you know, everybody that I asked, around here at NPR anyway, who's Keppler. They'd say oh, he was in astronomer who blah, blah. We say, no, no, no. But it's actually a character from the CBS show "CSI" as one of their producers Naren Shankar tells us.

Ms. NAREN SHANKAR (Producer, "CSI"): Keppler was a new CSI played by Liev Schreiber. He's a criminalist with a mysterious past. He ends up coming face to face with a lot of demons and it ends very tragically for him.

SEABROOK: So Keppler must be pretty popular this year, Marissa.

Ms. MAYER: Yes. I think that "CSI," I mean, it's one of the most popular shows. So it's not unusual that we see things where people will see them on television and they go to their computer and type it in.

SEABROOK: What does it say about us - the things that we're searched for most?

Ms. MAYER: I think, especially on the U.S. fastest rising list, there's three key themes. And I think one of them is that people like to search for new innovations, things that were invented that year, and the iPhone is a great example of that. The other two trends of the list are basically celebrities and social networks. So (unintelligible) celebrities, we see things like TMZ, the new celebrity gossip blog that last this year. "Transformers" was the most searched for movie and also in the fastest risers; "Heroes," the television show; and Anna Nicole Smith. That's citing all part of the interest in celebrity culture.

And then there's the overall social networking trend where on the top 10 - in the United States, we see YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Club Penguin, which is social networking for children. There's a lot. I mean, now we saw MySpace, we saw Facebook on the 2006 fastest rising periods and we thought that was it, and they're here again this year. So they're really growing to large (unintelligible) of volumes.

SEABROOK: Why do you do this?

Ms. MAYER: Well, I do think that there is when you look at this list and aggregate, they do say something about the times that we live in and what our interests are. They say a lot about social networking. They say a lot about the presidential campaign. And they also say a lot about what doesn't change for people. There is something both entertaining, reassuring and insightful in the list where you can see what's on these persisting questions overtime are and then also what was really hot this past year.

SEABROOK: Marissa Mayer of Google. Thank you for very much for joining us.

Ms. MAYER: Thank you.

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